And It Creeps In

And It Creeps In

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Me and Ginny Dog.

I’ve been clear of it for sometime now. I pushed all the desire out of my brain. There was a inkling, a tickling in the back, but I had discipline. I knew it would do me no good, and so I pushed on. Lately, though, it’s become more difficult to keep the imagination at bay. To be honest, it didn’t take much.

January and February were both near 30 mile months. A pittance of what used to be, but a considerable amount more than the zeros that filled all but a handful of 2016’s days. No doubt, it’s too soon to tell, but I’m slowly starting to ramp up some miles. A push day here, a day off there, a patient waiting for the aches and stiffness to return to the Achilles. Much to my pleasure though, the Achilles hasn’t felt like anything. It’s almost returned to just another body part I’m only aware of when I consciously think about how it feels.

Over the past week, I’ve increased not only my mileage, but frequency. Probably a bad call in retrospect, but it’s one I almost can’t help. Last week I had a plan to push mileage on Friday. Things had felt good, and I had decided it was time to push mileage a little and see how the body reacted. So I laced up my Simply Shod huaraches, got the Ginny Dog and ambled over to the local wildlife management area (WMA) – a 5500 acre parcel essentially human-less outside of hunting season. Surrounding the WMA is more privately owned land and a multitude of old woods roads and atv trails ready to be explored.

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This is what I missed.

I didn’t explore as much as I wanted, and was cautiously slow – although, it was probably still too fast as I am rebuilding from essentially zero base – but I still managed to get in 5 miles. What Joy! I know nature is beautiful. I know the gifts and blessings that lie in the quiet and solitude of woods devoid of humans. Of course with this little adventure, I went to bed Friday night filled with joy despite being resolved that Saturday morning would bring stiffness and aches. But when I rolled out of bed Saturday morning, there was nothing. No stiffness, no ache, no twinge. It was good.

Saturday took some discipline. I wanted to get back out into the woods, but I pushed it off. I waited until Sunday and went for another – shorter and slower – three mile run. Again Monday morning, no pain, no discomfort. And while I didn’t do anything on Monday, Tuesday was an easy, quicker two miles that led to zero pain on Wednesday morning.

It’s not much, maybe I’ll get 12 miles this week over the course of three days. The struggle is between an over-cautious fear of re-injuring my Achilles and being out even longer, and an over-zealous desire to get back into things.

I’ve avoided ultrasignup for the last two years, and I really should continue, but last night I caved. In truth, there’s no telling where I’ll be in November. In fact, I probably shouldn’t even be considering anything of ultra distance this year. I can’t help it. As I sat at the computer, perusing the semi-local races, I couldn’t help but map a 45 mile run utilizing the two bridges that cross the local river. I’m not sure why. I can’t help it; though I suppose, the mind can be over-zealous so long as I don’t let it drive my body. Sitting out all those months was the hardest part of this injury, but the slow wade back into things is proving to be difficult in it’s own way.

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Pipe Dreams.

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The Injury Post

So where have I been… Not under a rock. No, I’ve been healing. And healing always takes longer than expected. And I’m probably not healed yet, but I have been running some. So maybe, just maybe, there will be some fodder for me. Now whether or not I can get back into the habit of actually doing anything useful with the fodder is a different story. (Are there any studies out there on the life of a blog? Three years seems tops, unless it is your lively hood, I guess then it’s a different situation altogether.)

So where have I been? I’ve been moving, I’ve been homeschooling, I’ve been building. Unfortunately, I’ve been building nothing of any value, yet… Initially I believed my Achilles started bothering me in February 2014, as I looked back at my logs recently, it seems that it first started bothering me sometime in the winter of 2013, say November/December. In hindsight, if I had taken a couple of weeks off when it started bothering me, even a month, I probably would have been okay, and I wouldn’t have lost that much fitness in a month. But that’s not what I did, so no point in dwelling.

Getting There

Being a runner, and being hyperfocused, all I could see was my first go at 50 miles coming up in April – I had to finish sub-12hr to qualify for VT – and my first attempt at 100 miles at Vermont in July. I was getting my shoes for free or heavily discounted, and since you can’t complain with free, I left everything the same, ignored my Achilles, and just pushed on. Somehow convincing myself that it would hurt, and I would push through, and that after VT100, I could call it a day until it healed up. In reality, this could have been an okay plan, but runners don’t really know how to just stop, so when VT was over and someone informed me about a little 6hr race in New Hampshire, the plan to call it day after VT suddenly shifted to a plan to call it a day after Joe English. After Joe English, someone mentioned an indoor marathon in January, time to switch plans again.

Although I should have seen it way back in June, it was finally the marathon in January that made me dial way back and stop signing up for any races. See, back in May, while training for Vermont, my Achilles had gotten so stiff in the morning, and so sore in the afternoons, that I finally dialed back my training. I cut my mileage, canceled quality workouts and started hoping that the work I had put in over the last six months would be enough to carry me through my first hundred miler. Of course, on occasion I still tried to get in a good Q-workout and while they usually worked well enough, it was almost unbearable the day after. (By no means am I comparing myself to someone with chronic back pain or anything like that, but when you have a constant nagging feeling of some physical ailment, not only is your psyche effected, but your interactions and patients with others around you is also diminished. This is less than ideal when you have two small children at home.)

I don’t really know how I managed to get through Joe English, but I did. It almost gave me some hope that things were getting better, but then the indoor marathon happened. I ended up running 3:00+ (I think it was 3:08ish? Results give me a slower time because I showed up after the start – snowplows!) and wasn’t exactly enthralled by that time. It was ten minutes slower than my very first marathon, and near 20 minutes off my pr. Perhaps it was a bit of pr vanity that I stopped signing up for races, or maybe I honestly felt like it was time to call it a day. I don’t know for sure, but either way, after that marathon, I dialed my mileage back. That was January 2015, almost two years ago.

Rather than just hang it up, I had a running streak that I wanted to get to a year, and figured easy short mileage would suffice. I could keep my base up, and let things heal. Wrong. Over the next two years, I would dial my mileage back, and run until things felt better. Once better, I’d up my mileage ever so slightly only for the pain to come back. I’d lower my mileage to where it was before, but the pain would subsist until I dropped mileage even lower. It was in this fashion that I finally walked my mileage down to zero and ended a 600+ day run streak on March 23rd, 2016: 3,700+ miles after the initial injury.

With a streak dead, I had no push to carry on. I wanted to run, but at this point, it was time to just sit on my laurels and do nothing. I tried to do some cross training with weights and the like, but it never really caught on. It’s a poor excuse, yes, but it’s what I’ve got. Eventually I would find myself riding a tri-bike my brother gave to me, but in the end, even that gave my Achilles some undue stress and it was shelved. (Don’t worry, I’ve got it back out and am riding outside in January!!!)

The Doctor Side

So what did I do during this hiatus, and what if anything worked? I don’t know. I tried some Graston Technique at the local chiropracter, and while he was a super nice guy, the therapy just didn’t cut it for me. I tried doing it at home, but still, nothing. I’d had x-rays done and there was no bone spur, which was a positive. It meant that the irritation in the tendon was not due to an off-structural appendage in my heel that would take surgery and a cement chisel to remove. However, nothing on the x-rays also meant that this was totally a soft tissue thing and an MRI would be needed. Now what did I want an MRI for? I don’t really know. I think my main concern that this was such an ongoing and persistent thing, I had somehow managed to cause a minor tearing and the scar tissue was so dense, I was totally up a creek. Again, blessings be, this was not the case. The case was simple: I scuffed and stretched, rubbed and frayed my Achilles something fierce. It would heal, but it would take time. Lots of time.

Deeper Than Accupuncture

So it’s been a while, but when the writer of a blog about running ceases to run, well, there’s not much to write. Sure I’ve dabbled here and there, but there isn’t a whole lot to share about a junk mile filled with discomfort. And I’ve been busy.

Back when this whole Achilles thing first happened, one of the therapies suggested was dry needling (along with Graston and a bunch of others). Of course, I was slow to go with any therapy, but eventually I gave Graston a shot to no avail. In fact, it seemed to make things worse. Not long after the Graston didn’t work, I gave up on running – March 23, 2016 – altogether. I think I can say that over the last six months, things have improved, but I’m not entirely sure. The progress has been slow. Small nags, morning stiffness, discomfort. It’s all still present.

I can’t say why I finally went for it, but three weeks ago, I jumped on the dry needling. I didn’t really do my homework before hand. I knew I was going to have some needles stuck in me. I knew there’d be some discomfort. I knew the trigger points would (hopefully) be released. I did not know how much discomfort would be following me around for the next day and a half.

Generally speaking the needling wasn’t that bad. When he would find a knot and stab it a few times, that’s when the discomfort would escalate a bit. I’ve read of people likening it to an electric shock, and I guess that is true to some degree, but while a shock seems to let go after a bit, the dry needling holds that shock. Imagine a calf cramp – the type that wakes you up  at night with your toe thrust downward while you fumble to find your toes and pull them back up – well dry needling isn’t that bad, but it’s that prolonged cramp feeling that leaves you feeling exhausted and sore afterwards. Not having run an actual workout in at least a year, the exhausted ache afterwards was just the bump I’ve needed.

The first dry needle course really did a number and I wish I had taken the advice I received over two years ago and gone with the dry needling right away. The amount of Achilles discomfort subsided significantly.  It was exciting – and hopeful, so hopeful. I’ve had a second course and while things are better, it’s not ready yet. I’ve read of Achilles taking a year or more to recover. It’s not ruptured, so there’s that glimmer. For now, I just need to keep getting needled for my exhausted-muscle fix.